The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Tilting at the Windmills


Mick Hall • 28 January 2005

It is often difficult these days to understand the raison-d’etre of the PIRA, beyond that is to act as a bargaining chip for SF in the never-ending ceasefire negotiations. In many ways they remind me of those British army old sweats, portrayed in the old black and white movie The League of Gentlemen, in which after being demobbed at the end of WW2 they found life in civvies street not all that it was cracked up to be, and were recalled as a unit by their old CO to carry out a spot of private enterprise, their target being an over stuffed Bank vault. Ridiculous I know, as this type of thing only happens in the movies.

I doubt many people expect the PIRA in the north of Ireland to simply pack their bags and disappear into the sunset, especially now that the likes of the Rev. Ian Paisley has demanded they depart wearing sack cloth and ashes. But it is increasingly difficult to understand why they insist on maintaining active service units in the south of Ireland. One could understand them maintaining an administrative unit away from the prying eyes of the British Security Services, until such time as a deal is completed in the north. But to justify having active service units which by their very existence break the laws of the ROI is another matter. The more so when one takes into account the pan-nationalist-front, or whatever daft name one wishes to call the alliance of the FF government, PSF, SDLP and Irish America, has served SF well since its inception. Having said this, after recent events there can be little doubt many in the south feel that this alliance will need some blunt talking and tender loving care if it is ever to be the same again.

In a recent issue of the Blanket, I wrote, in an article entitled, The End of the Road, that in the Republic of Ireland, "a large and diverse group of public opinion has been formed across the political spectrum, which believes that PRM has reached the end of the road as a dual organisation." I had formed this opinion during the media brouhaha that had broken around the PRM after the robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast. Whilst in the main the media repeated Irish and UK government accusations that the PIRA was responsible for the bank robbery, they also highlighted the type of crimes that the PIRA active service units were accused of perpetrating in the Republic of Ireland, which ranged across the board from tax evasion scams, money laundering and loan sharking, armed robberies, pilfering from the docks, counterfeiting designer goods, smuggling cigarettes and highjacking freight.

Once the Provisional Republican Movement decided to recognise the Dail and if elected enter it as TD's, the current position and behaviour of the PIRA within the jurisdiction of the ROI became untenable, as its political wing had a clear responsibility on entering the Dail to uphold the laws and institutions of the Irish State. Thus it is not unfair to conclude that to continue to have ASU's on the ground in the ROI is not only untenable but totally unethical, for what the PRM's military wing does in reality if given the opportunity is rob the very same state's citizens, plunder their businesses, and defraud the ROI revenue service, whilst its political wing has sworn to protect the same people and States institutions. A contradiction of terms indeed.

Thus the belief that the PIRA should cease all its activities in the ROI was not a view held by just the usual suspects who have always opposed them, but as I have already said, came from people across the political spectrum and this group was growing by the day. Thus there was a real opportunity to bring pressure to bear on the PRM to stand down all volunteers who live within the geographical area that covers the ROI and cease all military activity within the said same state. If the PRM were to organise this, it would surely prove their good will as far as decommissioning their weaponry is concerned, and prove that if threats and demands are not present, they are prepared to move forward on the very complex and emotive issue of decommissioning and standing the PIRA down. After all the darkness brought about by the lack of progressive political movement during the past month, for a brief period it looked as if some light may be about to seep in.

However instead of concentrating on what is possible, many of the ROI leading politicians went off at the most ridiculous tangent. At the head of which, mounted on what looks to me suspiciously like Don Quixote faithful barn horse, Rocinante, sits the ROI Justice Minister Michael McDowell, safe in his belief that the PRM is a kin to a windmill only masquerading as a dangerous giant. Did he and his faithful Sancho Panzas call for realisable demands, and if so did they allow leading members of the PRM enough wriggle room to act upon them? Did they hell as like, they blundered in demanding that Mr Mitchell McLaughlin condemns as criminals the volunteers who ordered and carried out the killing of poor Mrs McConville? They did this in the full knowledge that if Mr McLaughlin were to do this, he would be denying the whole history of his movement, be spitting on the graves of Republican martyrs such as the ten hunger strikers, plus the hundreds of men and women who endured many prison protest down the years, the purpose of which was to demand political status and finally McLaughlin would be all but placing the SF party President Gerry Adams head on the block. As Adams was allegedly a senior Provisional officer in Belfast at the time of Mrs McConville death. Not surprisingly Mr McLaughlin declined to step forward and help destroy the movement he has worked tirelessly building for most of his adult life.

So, perhaps as Mr McDowell intended with his grand standing, he has in reality achieved nothing as far as moving the PRM into accepting the PIRA has outlived its usefulness. The ROI's very own windmill cruncher has achieved little, but his handiwork has managed to achieve something, even if like many opportunist politicians before him it was unintended. He has managed to sow doubts in the minds of many of the people in the coalition that has emerged in recent times that I mentioned above. For if he and those that support him in the media believe what motivates many of these people is to publicly humiliate and criminalise all those who have been through the ranks of the PIRA, then they are badly misled. The majority will simply not go down that road, for how could they, as many within their ranks were themselves at one time volunteers and feel no need to apologise for being so.

They will not join the hounds who wish to denigrate those men and women who chose to fight bigotry, injustice and gerrymandering by becoming volunteers. True, many these days may feel that another way may have been more appropriate to confront the injustices the nationalist population of the northern Statelet faced on a daily basis. But hindsight is a wonderful thing not available to those who were engaged in the struggle back then. Yes, dreadful crimes against humanity were committed during the course of the frightful years the north of Ireland has passed through. But armed Republicans alone did not only commit these monstrous acts, the British State and their allies in the Unionist Para-Militaries committed their own sizeable share of crimes against humanity. I see no evidence of Mr McDowell attempting to criminalise them, nor the organisations they belong to. No, he just wishes to dig back into the distant past of Republicans. Hopefully there may come a time when this will be possible, but even the most brainless politician should be able to see we have not reached it yet.

Our priority should be taking the gun out of Irish politics, which is something most can at least agree with Gerry Adams on. Instead of pillorying and placing the PRM in the public stocks, would it not be more appropriate to look for ways that will encourage and pressurise them to stand the PIRA down? Perhaps if people stop tilting at windmills, we could move forward on a stage-by-stage basis. Is it an impossibility to imagine two Irishmen, both members of political party's that originally came from the same Republican tradition, making an agreement that would see the end of all PIRA activity within the borders of the Republic of Ireland?

If they were to do so, would that not send a message to the Unionist Community in the north of Ireland, that just maybe the PRM is serious about taking the gun out of Irish politics, and they are genuine about decommissioning and standing their armed wing down in the north of Ireland? A long shot perhaps, but we could all do with a little sun light being let into this process, as we have surely had enough of these politically bleak, mid-winters days.




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

28 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Road to a Mafia State
Anthony McIntyre

Help is On the Way! Lawyers, Guns, Money...& Golf
Karen Lyden Cox

Four Reasons for Ideological Shift
Liam O Ruairc

Tilting at the Windmills
Mick Hall

Looking Down the Barrel of Freedom
Fred A. Wilcox

Saor Eire Again
Bob Purdie

Sex, Lies, But No Videotape
Seaghán Ó Murchú

25 January 2005

The Danger of Securocrats
Mick Hall

Criminality Accepted as the Norm
Davy Adams

The Rapture
Brian Mór

Bertie Talking Bollix
Anthony McIntyre

Pact Impact
Dr John Coulter

Holocaust Revisited
Anthony McIntyre



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices